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Monday, 25 May 2015

Moules frites in Bordeaux. Bordering on the chewy.

When I arrived in Bordeaux it was a Saturday afternoon and after booking into my hotel I took a familiar stroll down the very busy rue St Catherine, complete with dense throngs of shoppers entertained by sporadic street artists. Opposite St Projet square I cut down the narrow rue de la merci sometimes known as the impasse de la merci towards an old haunt, the Cinema Café Utopia on place Camille Jullian. I stopped for a refreshing Meteor beer; enjoyed the thought of being back in Bordeaux; then continued to explore the Golden Triangle district and the historical centres of old Bordeaux St-Pierre and St-Éloi on foot. These areas have beautifully restored honey yellow coloured buildings (some new projects were still in dusty restoration netting as I was there) and there were more restaurants and café bars than any person could ever desire. These are especially nice as the sun goes down and Bordeaux goes eating crazy. It is an extremely different experience to being in town on a Saturday night in the UK. Eating out in France appears to be a cultured affair with the emphasis on enjoying good fresh food cooked well with family and friends and a few drinks not getting blind drunk and being a public embarrassment and social nuisance.

With eating something nice in mind I scoured the golden lit ram-packed streets for somewhere good to eat where the French eat. Eventually, I came across Le Tio Pepe a French bistro on the rue de Remparts just off from Place Gambetta. It looked very busy outside and I wasn't sure that I would even get a table for one. The male owner waved me inside and showed me to a small red and white checked table opposite his bar area. There was a constant buzz of food and drinks being ferried from the kitchen to the customers outside. A young man who worked there seemed to constantly running hither and thither and occasionally, for the minutest of split seconds, even appeared to be frozen in mid air with his burgeoning trays! He certainly worked hard for his money. I wondered if he might be a family member to the owners.

Outside of Tio Pepe taken on Tuesday evening.
I had already decided what I wanted from the board on the street (moules frites facon grand-mére) mussels and chips like granny makes. From the waiter's language and body language it was pleasantly obvious I would have to wait my turn in ordering. Whilst waiting I ordered a beer and just took in the atmosphere of the busy bistro, the ambiance, the staff and the happiness of the customers chit chatting away. I already felt very relaxed with no indication of the blisters to come! I thought I had brought some comfortable shoes to walk in and luckily I had also brought a second slightly larger pair. Maybe those quaint photographic cobbles weren't quite so quaint and kind to my feet after all.

I finally got to order in French and I asked what 'facon' meant. The answer came back as facon meaning 'like' as in it is like that which granny makes. Sounded good. Apparently the creamy sauce contained garlic, onions, parsley, some sprigs of thyme, double cream and a little blue cheese and 'something secret' that only granny knows about. The picture is not of the ones I had but something as similar as I could find on the internet.

Maybe granny wasn't fully aware that a fair few of the mussel shells were broken or empty in my bowl of mussels and that the mussels themselves were just about 'all right' considering the volume they must get through cooking for large amounts of people but also they were quite shrivelled and not at all like the plump juicy ones I cook for myself at home. The sauce was tasty and I mopped up the remainder with the bread pieces served with the meal. The salvation of the not unpleasant evening was a delicious slice of tart citron. I wonder if granny made that? Because if she did she is on to a winner.

The bistro also serves tartare de saumon, dos de merlu roti, brochettes de gamba, calamars a la Basque, axoa de veau, axoa de beouf, a trilogy of fois gras, tartare de beouf Charolais, bavette steaks, entrecôte steaks and a grilled magret de canard with a pear based sauce. The veal axoa is a typically Basque recipe that used to be served on fair days and was accompanied with robust red wines of the Bordeaux region or a rich fruity Madiran. The recipe contained garlic, chilli peppers, bay leaves, parsley, thyme and a strong Espelette pepper. I bet granny can remember that and granddad too!

#Bordeaux #BordeauxFrance

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